Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi. It is a very famous festival in India and is especially celebrated in a grand manner in Maharashtra. It marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. The festival falls in the month of Bhadrapada, generally between August and September, and lasts for 10 days. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by following a number of traditional customs and rituals, some of which have been listed in the following lines.
Ganesh Chaturthi Customs & Rituals
Two to three months before Ganesh Chaturthi, clay models of Lord Ganesha are prepared for sale, by especially skilled artisans. They decorate and depict the Lord in various poses, to match the religious theme. The height of the statues varies from ¾ inch to over 25 feet.
A day before the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi, the house is cleaned and whitewashed, especially the place where the idol is to be placed, in order to attain the sense of purity.
Ganesha idols, after being brought, are carried with their faces covered with a saffron cloth. The idol is accompanied by chanting and sound of cymbals.
In the evening of the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi, sthapana (installation) of the idol takes place. The idol is installed in the place of worship. All the members of the household gather around the decorated altar and the priests perform a ritual, by which the idol is said to be filled with life.
After the installation, traditional puja takes place at the chosen time. The worshipper sips the holy water and performs the pranayama and bows to Ganesha and all the other gods. The process continues with Ganapati Aarti and devotional chanting, sung along with the sound of cymbals, bells and clapping.
During the puja, a sweet called modak is offered to the god, along with the flowers, completing the ritual of the first day. After the pooja is over, the distribution of sweets, offered to Lord Ganesha, takes places amongst devotees, as prasad.
Throughout the ten days of Ganesh Chtaurthi, the idol is worshipped with simple recitations of the devotional songs, offering of flowers and lamps, along with the sweets.
Ganesh Chtaurthi celebration comes to an end on the tenth day. The idol of Ganesha is carried to a water source, in the final procession, accompanied by the chanting 'Ganapati Bappa Morya'. Finally, the idol is immersed in the water.